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Build an iron-clad plan

  • SIMA
- Posted: September 1, 2014
By Scott Moorman
If you haven’t already started getting your equipment checked out and prepared for the upcoming snow season, you should start today. For snow-removal professionals, it’s critical to start the season as prepared as possible.

One of the biggest mistakes snow businesses can make is to wait until the first snowfall to check that equipment is in working order. Pulling snowplows, salt spreaders and other equipment out in September to clean, inspect and service can save you money and reduce your cost of ownership.

When it comes to this industry, time is definitely money. If you don’t start early on your preseason checklist, you run the risk of your equipment failing at 3 a.m. in the middle of a storm. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a dealer that’s open and can fix the problem quickly, you’ll still end up behind schedule.

Get equipment out of storage
It’s best to clean, repair and service snowplows and spreaders before storing them at the end of the season. Even if you put everything away properly, things can happen during the off-season that you’ll want to catch sooner rather than later. For example, a mouse got into the power unit of a V-plow after the contractor put it in storage and made a meal out of the plow harness. Aside from the occasional mouse, if your equipment is put away properly, it should come out of storage and work well.

When the leaves start to change, pull out equipment, inspect it, hook it up and operate it. Just as you do with your vehicles, follow recommended yearly maintenance procedures. Don’t forget to check the trucks as well. If someone backed into a wall with the spreader last season (and forgot to mention it), now is the best time to find the damage. A bent spinner shaft can quickly go from annoying to ending your route (and income) for the night.

Preventive maintenance
Take your equipment into your dealer - some have fixed-price service plans - and have it checked, serviced and repaired. Preventive maintenance costs money, but it’s still a lot cheaper than taking it to that same dealer at 3 a.m. If you’re lucky enough to have a dealer that stays open during storms, you’ll probably pay a premium service charge, and you’ll likely end up in line. It’s an avoidable risk.

Be proactive. A lot of the service parts are not very expensive, especially compared to the cost of having them fail. If there’s a harness that’s constantly exposed to the elements or a connector that’s regularly dragged through the mud in the off-season, it’s less expensive to repair it in September than in January.

Be mindful of what wears over time
In addition to following normal maintenance procedures, be vigilant about the parts that take a lot of abuse. On plows, keep an eye on cutting edges and A-frames. If you have several years on a spreader, carefully check the motors and bearings to make sure they function correctly. Deicing materials that are currently used on the roads can harm wire harnesses and connectors.

Any mechanical connection points, such as pins, hinge pins and clevis pins, are inexpensive to replace, and they are designed to wear out before the brackets to which they’re attached. As a pin starts to wear, it can lead to other problems, so replace any worn or damaged pins early.

Start your preseason preparation now to avoid unnecessary hassles.
Keys to keeping the fleet running

Place orders early
. If you need new equipment for the upcoming season, place your orders as soon as you can. You’ll want to get your order placed by the time your dealer receives its first equipment shipment rather than dealing with reorders and waiting on shipments when you’re crunched for time.

Dealer support. Shopping around might save money up front, but it’s hard to put a price on the support that a local dealer can provide. Nobody wants to use their warranty, but when you need it, it’s nice to have a good relationship with the dealer who is only 15 minutes away.

Parts list. Make a list of any parts needed for maintenance on the snowplows, spreaders and vehicles and make sure you have extras in stock. Again, order early.

Stock spare supplies. Have site managers, foremen or even each driver keep spare hoses, fluids, tools, etc. in the truck in the event of a break-down.

Information exchange
. The more communication between contractors and dealers the better. We normally don’t hear from the contractor unless they have a problem. While fixing problems is important, so are the positives of what the contractors like about the equipment. This helps manufacturers develop the next generation of equipment as the tweaks and changes are in the process.

Equipment prep checklist

Trucks & equipment
  • Pressure wash equipment, inspect and repair as required.
  • Inspect electrical components, including batteries, starters, alternators, connections, fuses, lights, etc.
  • Check hydraulic systems for leaks, damaged hoses and connections and repair as necessary. Tie them up or back where required to protect them during operational conditions. 
  • Change the oil and oil filters. Other filters should be checked and replaced as necessary.
  • Inspect electrical components, including batteries, starters, alternators, connections, fuses, lights, light sockets, loose and frayed wires and connectors.
  • Flush & replace hydraulic fluid
  • Check cutting edges for wear
  • Replace shoes if necessary
  • Inspect & tighten hoses and fittings
  • Inspect all pivots and pins
  • Check & clean electrical connections
  • Check & tighten all fasteners
  • Check plow & truck light operation
  • Inspect for mechanical damage
  • Inspect & tighten hoses and fittings
  • Check & adjust chain tension
  • Check & clean electrical connections
  • Check & tighten all set screws and fasteners
  • Inspect for mechanical damage
  • Check & lubricate all fittings, making sure that gearboxes are checked and serviced as necessary.
  • Calibrate the equipment.
  • Check pumps on the liquid applicators for leaks and overall operation.
  • Check nozzles and spray bars for breaks, leaks and uniformity in spray pattern. Are nozzles missing or plugged? Are the correct nozzles in place?
Scott Moorman is director of engineering for Buyers Products.
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